After Facebook posts threaten 12-year-old transgender girl, Oklahoma school district cancels classes
It was the first day of middle school in Achille, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, and a 12-year-old student needed to use the bathroom.
For the past two years in the rural school district, the student, a transgender girl, had been using a staff restroom. But this middle school building, which recently reopened in the small town in the southern edge of the state, was unfamiliar to the girl. Not yet knowing where the staff bathroom was, "she used the girls bathroom," her mother, Brandy Rose, told local television station KXII, "one single time."
A parent in the district somehow found out, and posted an angry message on a Facebook group for fellow parents of Achille students.
"Heads up parents of 5th thru 7th grade girls," the woman, Jamie Crenshaw, posted in Achille ISD Parents Group. "The transgender is already using the girls bathroom. We have been told how the school has gone above and beyond to make sure he has his own restroom yet he is still using the girls. REALLY . . . Looks like it's gonna be a long year.
"We have made school board meetings over this situation last year but nothing seems to be changing," the post continued. "This is the same kid that got an [sic] trouble as soon as he transferred two years ago for looking over the stalls in the girls bathroom. Enough is enough."
The post has since been deleted, but the group reposted a screenshot for the sake of transparency. Other screenshots of comments, from adults outside of the district, also emerged on Facebook about the preteen girl. Some of them dehumanized her, calling her "this thing" and a "half baked maggot."
"Why are parents letting their kids be transgender ?" said one post. "Parents and Churches need to shut this down, the Bible says God created man, and woman . . . not any transgender bs," said another. "Hell with new laws and new rules, this is what our future is if WE don't stop it."
Others made disturbing threats of violence:
"If he wants to be a female make him a female. A good sharp knife will do the job really quick."
"Just tell the kids to kick a- in the bathroom and it won't want to come back!!"
Screenshots of the posts circulated widely on Facebook, drawing outrage from transgender advocates. After activists began writing to the superintendent and organizing a protest at the school, the district announced it would be canceling all classes on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
The girl's family also filed for a protective order in Bryan County court on Friday against a person with the same surname as one of the parents who attacked the girl on Facebook, according to the Oklahoman.
Rose, the transgender girl's mother, told KXII the messages were "scary."
"These are adults making threats to a child. I don't understand it," Rose said. "She's just an awesome kid, and then to see any fear in her like that . . . I can't explain how bad that hurts me."
Her daughter has been identifying as a girl for years, and has not had any problems with the district in the time since, Rose said. The only issue arose when a student accused the girl of "peeping" under a bathroom stall, the mother said.
"My daughter leans very far forward to use the bathroom so I can understand why someone might see her leaning forward as 'oh my gosh she's trying to look under the stall,'" Rose told KXII.
Rick Beene, the superintendent of Achille Public Schools, told KFOR that law enforcement officials urged him to cancel classes due to the potential for demonstrations on the campus, which is attended by about 360 students.
"The thought was, for law enforcement, that you can have an opposing group that might be here and that could lead to problems," Beene said. "When you get into a small town, you don't have to get a permit to demonstrate, therefore the problem with that is you don't know who's showing up, you don't know what time they're going to show up or anything like that."
Beene clarified that only the person who wrote the initial Facebook post was a parent who actually lives in the district. The other messages came from parents living in other parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
One of the administrators of the Achille school district parent Facebook page wrote a message Monday night saying she wanted to "clarify that Jamie's initial post was the only one posted in the Achille parent group."
"The other comments were screenshots from another thread not related to the Achille parent group," the administrator wrote. "The way they were pieced together made it appear as such but no threats made within our group."
The initial post, from Jamie Crenshaw, was shared on a relative's Facebook account, which then drew many of the other derogatory responses.
The Facebook group appeared to have been deleted by early Tuesday morning.
The incident comes as the Trump administration has rolled back federal guidelines protecting transgender students. Last year, the administration rescinded an Obama-era directive that said transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity. The Education Department has also stopped investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students fighting for bathroom access.
LGBTQ advocacy groups, including the Oklahoma City chapter of PFLAG, have rallied around the transgender girl, condemning the attacks against her.
"Grown adults threatening mutilation of a preteen trans child in our own backyard," PFLAG Oklahoma City tweeted. "This is unacceptable."
The group also wrote in a letter to Achille school district officials that it was "heartbroken, angered, and dismayed" by the Facebook posts.
"The Achille ISD community MUST show that they stand by their stated values by actively and publicly supporting and protecting this family," the group wrote. "This should include not just the child but also her parents, who we imagine are also heartsick, angry, and terrified for their child's safety . . . That is the reality too many families in the LGBTQ community face on a daily basis."
Sara Cunningham, executive director of local LGBTQ advocacy group Free Mom Hugs, offered the school district resources and connections with mental health professionals "to create LGBTQ sensitivity training among board, staff or student body."
"The tragedy is, this level of emotional torture and threats of violence (from adults), will undoubtedly lead to depression, mental illness and the prompting of suicidal thought," Cunningham wrote in a letter to district officials. According to KWTV, the school district is hiring an extra resource officer.
Beene, the superintendent, told KFOR he has received more than 300 emails about the incident. He stressed that the school district aims to be accepting of "all populations," but said he would be open to additional training regarding the LGBTQ community.
"I need education. We all need to be educated," Beene said. "It's certainly something that people didn't deal with 20, 30 years ago."
This article was written by Samantha Schmidt, a reporter for The Washington Post.